New Zealand make right moves versus England, target WTC final against India
- Skipper Kane Williamson will miss the Edgbaston game to protect his elbow with focus firmly on the Southampton tie that will crown the best Test team later this month.
New Zealand’s build-up to the ICC World Test Championship final was almost ideal after the first of their two Tests against England ended. While Kane Williamson’s side ticked most of the boxes that they would’ve wanted to at Lord’s, the NZ skipper has now been ruled out of Thursday’s Edgbaston Test against England due to a niggle in his left elbow – of course keeping the summit clash against India (which starts on June 18) in mind.
“It’s not an easy decision for Kane to have to miss a Test, but we think it’s the right one,” New Zealand coach Gary Stead said in a statement on Wednesday. “He’s had an injection in his elbow to relieve the irritation he’s been experiencing when he bats and a period of rest and rehabilitation will help maximise his recovery.” Two-Test-old Will Young will play in Williamson’s place in Birmingham.
Still, it was a fine all-round performance to dominate all four days of Lord’s (Day 3 was a washout), which NZ will take plenty of heart from. It all started with the visitors trying out Devon Conway as an opener. And it couldn’t have worked out any better, with the debutant smacking a double hundred in his very first innings in Test cricket. Henry Nicholls was another notable performer at No.5, getting into the groove with 61 runs.
Even Conway’s opening partner in Tom Latham, who couldn’t build on either of his starts, spent valuable time in the middle, facing 99 balls in the second dig for 36 after a 57-ball 23 in the first innings. Latham will now lead in Williamson’s absence in Birmingham.
Williamson, with scores of 13 and 1, was dismissed in uncharacteristic fashion in both innings. He would’ve used his experience to rectify his errors before the WTC final against India, but now that won’t be the case. The experienced Ross Taylor too looked out of sorts during his 14 in the first innings, but a quick cameo of 33 on the final day would’ve helped restore some of his confidence.
The Kiwis will be even more pleased with the workout their bowlers had. Tim Southee, leader of the attack, finished with 6-43 as England were dismissed for 275 in the first innings. Most impressive was how he adapted to the conditions and hit the right length to outshine the local legends, James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
A good example of the importance of match practice was seen in how Neil Wagner and Kyle Jamieson used the game to settle into their respective rhythms. With the Lord’s pitch a bit slower than expected – hence not suitable to Wagner's natural style of roughing up batsmen with the rising ball – the aggressive left-armer altered his length in the second innings to generate impressive movement. He looked incisive and picked up the wickets of Rory Burns (centurion in the first innings) and captain Joe Root.
Jamieson found his rhythm only by the fourth morning as well, despite picking up early wickets. He combined with Southee to give NZ complete control of the Test, taking as many as four wickets early on Day 4, overseeing England’s collapse from 101 for two overnight to 140 for six within the first hour.
With the confidence gained, and Trent Boult having joined the team as well, NZ would ideally have liked to field their best XI in the Edgbaston Test as a final prep for the WTC final. But in Williamson’s absence, NZ will now look to testing their best pace attack – Southee, Boult, Jamieson and Wagner – before the match against India in Southampton.
If they do play this four-pronged pace attack, Southee’s workload will increase to three back-to-back Tests. “I have not had that conversation yet with Tim,” said coach Stead. “He bowled 42 overs in the Test match and bowled really well. He is a workhorse and loves the hard work.”
According to the original plan, Boult was expected to be fielded directly in Southampton, but Stead hinted at his return against England on Thursday. “There is a chance (Boult will play). There are a few things that have changed… the British government has relaxed their quarantine stipulations, so Trent is out of isolation three or four days earlier than we expected,” Stead said. “We still have not made a firm call on that and we will give it the next 48 hours before we work out what we do with Trent in that second Test.”
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